Blu-ray Review: Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers DVD CoverDistributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment

BBFC Classification: 18

Director: Dwight H. Little

Starring: Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell, Danielle Harris, Michael Pataki, George P. Wilbur

After the disappointing box-office returns of Halloween III: Season of the Witch maybe the sub-title of this film should have been called ‘The Much-Needed Return of Michael Myers’, as audiences clearly did not take to John Carpenter’s idea of an unrelated story for each film in the series. Since Rob Zombie’s divisive Halloween remake and its sequel brought the character back to mainstream popularity during the last decade it’s all been a bit quiet on the Myers front, so until the much-mooted sequel to Zombie’s Halloween II appears – if, indeed, it ever does – Anchor Bay have put out two of the classic original’s sequels on Blu-ray to keep you going.

It’s 10 years after Michael Myers original massacre in Haddonfield and the masked killer has been in a coma following the fire at the hospital. During a routine transfer Michael (George P. Wilbur) awakens and hears the paramedics discussing the death of his sister Laurie Strode and that she had a daughter. Incensed by this discovery Michael kills the paramedics and escapes back to Haddonfield to find his niece and sever his family ties once and for all.

But hot on his trail is Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence), who has learned of Michael’s escape and makes his way to Haddonfield to warn the local police and to try and protect young Jamie (Danielle Harris) and her new foster family. The trouble is since that Halloween night a decade earlier Haddonfield has a new Sheriff that needs convincing of the danger that the town is now in, and add to that a lynch mob has gathered on the streets and the scene is set for a night of bloodshed during which Michael will stop at nothing to get to Jamie.

It must first be noted that as a direct sequel to 1981’s Halloween II, Halloween IV glosses over a some important continuation glitches that will involve you having to just accept a few inconsistencies, like the fact that Michael Myers was shot in both eyes shortly before both him and Loomis seemed to perish in a fireball at the end of Halloween II. We all know there has to be a certain suspension of disbelief in these slasher films but it does seem to be a rather large plot hole.

Nevertheless, the real downside to Halloween IV is that it is just too generic a slasher film to compare with John Carpenter’s original. Realising the need to amp up the gore to compete with the likes of Friday the 13th and My Bloody Valentine, Halloween II contained a bit more blood but in 1988 Michael Myers was now competing with a zombified Jason Voorhees, a cackling Freddy Krueger and Pinhead with all his gruesome torture devices, but in trying to update the formula something was lost. It probably didn’t help that Michael Myers looked pretty weedy and lacked the menacing screen presence that he had in the previous films, although that menacing presence is more than made up for by Donald Pleasence and his insane ramblings which are probably the most terrifying thing about the film.

Danielle Harris bucks the trend of child actors and does a pretty good job as Jamie Lloyd, whose visions of her uncle (who she has never met) have been plaguing her. The rest of the cast are all the standard ’80s stereotypes that get picked off one-by-one by Myers, although Ellie Cornell as Jamie’s foster sister Rachel is very likeable.

Anchor Bay have done a sterling job with tidying up the picture quality, leaving enough of a gritty look to keep in with the film’s aesthetics but adding a bit more richness and depth, especially in the final act which is very dark and was often hard to make out on previous DVD/VHS releases. The sound is a standard Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track and seems a little on the quiet side, with those stabbings and shootings never quite hitting as hard as they should. Special features are fairly minimal, with audio commentaries from director Dwight H. Little and stars Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell plus a Halloween 4/5 discussion panel.

So it’s a bit of a mixed bag with this one. On the one hand it is a perfectly decent HD transfer that does vamp up the visuals nicely and makes the film look relatively fresh. On the other, the film itself isn’t actually that good. It isn’t quite the worst the series has to offer in terms of a plot but it is the most boring to watch, despite the introduction of Danielle Harris and the presence of a quite-clearly-off-his-rocker Donald Pleasence. Overall, it’s not really a film that you’ll want to watch too often or outside the context of a Halloween marathon.

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers

Special Features: Audio commentary with actresses Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris, audio commentary with director Dwight H. Little and author Justin Beahm, Halloween 4/5 Panel Discussion, theatrical trailer.

UK Release Date: 15th October 2012

Anchor Bay Entertainment – Website

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One thought on “Blu-ray Review: Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

  1. Pingback: DVD Review: See No Evil 2 (2014) | Ancient Slumber

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